O'Farrell to cut conditions for 80,000 workers

August 30, 2012
Barry O'Farrell plans to squeeze workers by cutting entitlements in almost 100 awards.

More than 80,000 NSW public sector workers will lose basic entitlements such as annual leave loading, penalty rates and remote living allowances under new plans from Barry O'Farrell's Coalition government. Some sick leave and parental leave also face the axe.

The latest attack comes after 15,000 jobs were cut, public-sector pay rises were capped below the inflation rate, and workers' compensation rights for sick and injured workers were stripped.

The O'Farrell government plans to remove hard-won entitlements from almost 100 awards. It says "frontline workers" won't be affected, but the cuts will affect aged-care nurses, national park rangers, librarians, disability support workers and school support staff.

The cuts will also hit child protection workers, who recently staged a protest after a toddler who was twice referred to the department was beaten to death. The department was so understaffed that workers were unable to see the child before he was killed.

NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce said the reforms were intended to "modernise wage agreements", but opposition leader John Robertson said the latest attacks would drag public servants "back to the dark ages".

Unions are organising a day of protest to begin the fight against the cuts. The Public Service Association (PSA) planned statewide stopwork meetings for 9am-1pm on October 8. PSA secretary John Cahill said he expects tens of thousands of workers to rally.

NSW Nurses Association acting secretary Judith Kiejda condemned the effect on nurses in aged care who already face real wage declines after the wage cap. "The meanness of this government beggars belief," she said.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the cuts will make it hard for the state "to attract and retain the public-sector workers we need to run our hospitals, care for the sick and aged”.

The latest cuts come after the release of the “review of government spending” report. The report recommended the NSW government close “underperforming” renewable energy schemes, dump guards from trains, increase public transport fares, reduce teachers' long service leave, and fully privatise electricity.

The O'Farrell government “supported” or “noted” these recommendations, ruling out none, which gives an indication of what will be on the chopping board if it implements the current attacks.

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